Bruce Schneier: Russia hacked NSA for Snowden docs

Security expert says Snowden not to blame for Russia and China getting hands on secret files

China and Russia have copies of Edward Snowden's leaked documents by hacking the NSA itself before the whistleblower even arrived in Russia, according to security expert Bruce Schneier.

He believes lax security controls at the US spy agency, rather than Snowden residing in Russia, being responsible for allowing foreign countries to get their hands on top secret documents.

The countries also have sophisticated hacking capabilities that far outstrip journalists' abilities to protect the leaked documents, Schneier wrote in Wired yesterday.

"The vulnerability is not Snowden; it's everyone who has access to the files," wrote Schneier.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"China and Russia had access to all the files that Snowden took well before Snowden took them because they've penetrated the NSA networks where those files reside.

"Remember that Snowden was able to wander through the NSA's networks with impunity."

He pointed to Russia's alleged hack of the White House network earlier this year, as well as suspected hacks from China on US government databases.

He added that journalists protecting the files after receiving them from Snowden would have struggled to fend off government-backed cyber hackers.

"It's been open season on the computers of the journalists Snowden shared documents with since this story broke in July 2013," he claimed.

"While they have been taking extraordinary pains to secure those computers, it's almost certainly not enough to keep out the world's intelligence services." 

Advertisement - Article continues below

Schneier's article was written in response to a Sunday Times front page story claiming MI6 has had to pull spies out of operations because Russia had cracked more than one million encrypted documents held by Snowden.

The story has since been widely panned by media, with other journalists pointing out inaccuracies such as the claim Snowden had fled to Russia in fact, he had been in Moscow en route to South America when the US revoked his passport, allowing Russia to hold him in transit.

Moreover, he said he left his documents with a contact in Hong Kong, pouring doubt on the article's claim he had the files when he landed in Russia.

Schneier said: "It's a terrible article, filled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about both Snowden's actions and the damage caused by his disclosure."

The cryptographer said he had no doubt Snowden had encrypted the documents before landing in Russia, just as the whistleblower has claimed, because it's sensible and easy to do.

Featured Resources

How inkjet can transform your business

Get more out of your business by investing in the right printing technology

Download now

Journey to a modern workplace with Office 365: which tools and when?

A guide to how Office 365 builds a modern workplace

Download now

Modernise and transform your sales organisation

Learn how a modernised sales process can drive your business

Download now

Your guide to managing cloud transformation risk

Realise the benefits. Mitigate the risks

Download now


cyber security

NSA hands serious flaw to Microsoft rather than use it

15 Jan 2020
internet security

Avast and AVG extensions pulled from Chrome

19 Dec 2019

Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular


How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

5 Feb 2020
artificial intelligence (AI)

AI identifies 11 earth-bound asteroids

18 Feb 2020
operating systems

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

12 Feb 2020
Business operations

HP shareholders invited to come dine with Xerox

17 Feb 2020